Five-Spice Sweet Potatoes

Got any leftover uncooked sweet potatoes (or yams) from Thanksgiving? Here’s a great recipe based on one from the November 2009 issue of Food &Wine. It gives a Chinese twist to traditional glazed sweet potatoes, so I’m calling it Chinese home cooking, although it should probably be served with a Chinese-inspired western menu, rather than as part of a traditional Chinese one. I’ve tweaked the recipe a bit, reducing the amount of butter and sugar, partially changing the cooking method, and eliminating a walnut toffee called for in the original.

Five spice powder’s claim to fame is that it includes all 5 flavors found in Chinese cooking: sweet, sour, bitter, pungent, and salty. You can make your own by combining equal parts whole Sichuan (or other) peppercorn, cinnamon sticks, cloves, fennel seed, and star anise. After toasting the spices lightly, grind in a mortar or with a coffee or spice grinder. If you’re in a hurry or don’t want to mess with that, five-spice is also available pre-mixed in Asian markets and in some conventional groceries – try the Asian section first, then the baking/spice aisle.


  • 2 lbs orange sweet potatoes or yams (I love the “garnet” variety), peeled (or not) and cut into 2″ chunks
  • 1/4 c packed light brown sugar
  • 1 T unsalted butter
  • 3/4 tsp five spice powder, lightly toasted
  • dash of grated nutmeg
  • pinch of sea salt


  1. Steam the sweet potatoes for 15-20 m or just until tender. Remove to an oven-proof dish.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400F.
  3. While the sweet potatoes steam, combine the sugar, butter, and spices and heat until the butter melts. Simmer on low heat 5 m.
  4. Pour the mixture over the cooked sweet potatoes, toss gently to coat, taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary, then bake for about 10 m until tender and glazed.

do ahead:

You can steam the potatoes up to a day in advance – cool and then refrigerate, tightly covered, then bring to room temperature before adding the sugar mixture and baking. Or you can finish the dish, cool and then refrigerate, tightly covered. Reheat at 350F until bubbly, about 15-20 m.


This also makes a wonderful puree – reduce the amount of sugar and butter to taste, and mash or puree in a food processor until smooth.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s